FFLAG was invited to Herbert Smith Freehill (HSF)’s ‘LGBT in the Family’ panel event, part of their recent Global Diversity and Inclusion Week. Trustee Sorrel Atkinson and son Jolyon were asked to be on panel along with Tuvia Borok co-founder of P3:Proud.Professional.Parents and Dario Parente trustee of New Family Social. Jill Chung, co-chair of HSF’s LGBT network chaired the event. This was the first joint event that HSF LGBT and Family Networks had ever hosted.
From left, Dario, Tuvia, Jill, Jolyon and Sorrel
FFLAG is a well-known and respected charity across the UK and yet people are usually surprised when they learn how small an organization we actually are in terms of people and resources. Not many realize that we rely entirely on voluntary contributions to enable us to provide our services to anyone who needs them.
Sometimes the task seems daunting.
So we would like to take this opportunity to heartily thank our friends at the LGBT Consortium for being there for us and so many others as well, because they host the largest network of LGBT groups, projects and organizations in the UK.
Over the years they have been there for us in terms of advice, training, information, linking in with others and yes, sometimes a friendly shoulder to lean on.
The Consortium’s Annual Conference and AGM was held on January 23rd and 24th and Bruce and Janet Kent were able to attend on behalf of FFLAG this year.
Paul Roberts, the LGBT Consortium’s CEO, was recently awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours List for his outstanding services to the sector. He is pictured here (on the left) with Greg Ussher, The Consortium’s President congratulating him during the conference for his work.
Paul has personally been a great friend to FFLAG and has supported us in countless ways over the years. Specifically recently, as FFLAG has begun a major reorganization and review of its activities, Paul has been meeting with the Trustees with encouragement and wise counsel.
The Annual Conference was a weekend of Bitesize Workshops each led by different members of the Consortium themselves who were willing to share some of their experiences and expertise with others. There was advice and information about such topics as getting the best out of social media, helping LGBT+ people living in rural areas, finances, reaching younger people, project management, grassroots campaigning, LGBT and asylum issues and many others including getting the most of what the Consortium has to offer small charities like our own.
Many new contacts and friendships were made and FFLAG is all the stronger for this association.
FFLAG parents Sue Allen, Janet Kent and Bruce Kent attended the launch of Arm in Arm, a regular event set up to tackle the damaging effects of loneliness and social isolation in the over 50s in Devon’s LGBT community.
Ex-soldier James Wharton author of “Out in the Army – My Life as a Gay Soldier” spoke about his life in the army, the homophobia, as well as the 6 weeks he spent serving with Prince Harry, who is a strong straight ally for LGBT rights.
We also met up with Carol who runs Transfigurations, a support group for transgender and or gender variant people, their parents and wider family and their partners. Carol transitioned over 40 years ago, so has great understanding and insight into issues that might be faced.
Although the group is based in Torquay, their confidential telephone helpline is national,
07476 15 17 17. It is open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday (except 1st Wednesday of every month) from 6pm – midnight. For more information visit: www.transfigurations.co.uk
We wish all involved with Arm in Arm every success with their ongoing monthly meetings. We certainly enjoyed an excellent launch event! Thank you for inviting us.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Anglican Primates confirm they have no intention of recognising gender or sexuality equality
The hopes of many LGBTI Christians have been brutally dashed by their leaders’ recent decision to keep their institutional homophobia. The progressive Episcopol Churches in the USA and Canada have been censured and so the abuses around the world are officially being allowed to continue.
FFLAG fully supports gender and sexuality equality. Below are some of the letters written to the Archbishop from FFLAG supporters.
Dear Archbishop Justin,
I write as the parent of 2 children who both identify as gay. I have been a committed communicant member of the Anglican Church, who brought up her children in this faith. I find myself now questioning why, when so much hurt and judgement is meted out to them, and indeed me as their mother, by the church? I now feel out of communion following the recent events at the Primates’ conference. I have felt on the edge for years – balancing between the LGBT community and the rejecting church. My husband of 47 years is not a Christian and wonders why I bother to stay with it.
My dismay this week is at the decision to exclude the Episcopal Churches of America from any decision-making or discussions in the Anglican communion for three years. They have been pioneers for Christ in moving the Anglican Church forward in its journey towards less bigotry and more understanding of the love of Jesus which is for all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Your official pronouncement has side-lined these holy people who were making an obvious success of more acceptance of LGBTI people in the Anglican church – a good role model for less enlightened dioceses. Surely this decision only strengthens those who would discriminate against and punish – violently in some countries – those of minority sexual orientations. These GAFCON bishops are still not happy with your judgment and will never compromise. Their interpretation of the Biblical passages they choose to select is flawed and they are not open or able to listen to any other interpretations. They are the leaders in the Anglican communion now, by the decision made this week. Were there any LGBT people, or any women involved in the primates’ decision?
I was, however, greatly heartened to read the Bishop of New York’s robust response to the ‘consequences’ you meted out to them: the consequences of their Dioceses offering ordination to gay men (which they have been doing since 2003, so this is a very late reaction!) and also allowing same-sex marriages to be celebrated in church. These are not behaviours for which punishment should be given. The Right Reverend Andrew M. L. Dietsche assures and reassures the LGBT people in his diocese that he will never regret the decisions he has made to provide the fullest possible inclusion for all people in his diocese in the church’s common life: full access to the sacraments of the church – notably marriage and ordination. I wish that you as Archbishop could see how right, encouraging and Christ-like this is. Rev Andrew thanks God for the good learnings and gifts that have come to his churches as they have tried to love more expansively in a Christ-like way. He writes that he will continue firm in his convictions to embrace the full and diverse community of brothers and sisters in New York. He has seen God bless the whole church as his church sought to bless those who had been marginalised for years.
If I withdraw, as today I have considered, from the Deanery and Diocesan Synods on which I serve, it will be a parallel situation, as it is for those churches which are sanctioned. Who will be there if I don’t go, to speak up for the LGBTQI people in our midst?
I pray you will rethink your inequitable decision. You have side-lined the positive, successful dioceses of the communion and chosen to side with the mistaken negative fundamentalists.
Yours in Christ,
Margaret Evans (Mrs)
An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Like you, I want to do all I can to prevent more people like Leelah Alcorn from taking their own lives. She was only 14 years old in 2014 but was rejected as a transgender girl by her devoutly religious Christian parents. So she just walked out in front of an HGV. Bobby Griffiths died at the age of twenty when he let himself fall off a bridge in the path of an eighteen wheeler. Again, this was because of his mother’s fundamentalist Christian hatred of homosexuality.
Many others are continuing to suffer from depression, self-loathing, alienation and fear or they begin to self-harm or attempt suicide or get caught up in unhealthy relationships and lifestyles because they are rejected for who they are by their nuclear and church families.
I believe that questions of sexuality and gender within the Anglican Communion are becoming more and more urgent. So, before your planned special meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury beginning next week, I want to write to encourage you and to let you know that I trust that you will ultimately make wise and loving decisions that will bless your congregations and ultimately millions of others around the world.
You don’t know me personally. I have many Anglican friends but I am not an Anglican. In fact, I have pastored Pentecostal churches before resigning and leaving the denomination because I could not in good conscience support a church family that was abusive towards LGBT Christians.
You have called the primates together this January to discuss amongst other issues human sexuality. You clearly have a central desire to hold the communion of Anglicans together despite their differences in doctrinal understanding. You were quoted in the Anglican Communion News Service bulletin of September 16th 2015 as saying, “A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement.”
Why must it?
Surely you recognise that the differences in belief amongst Anglicans are fundamental to their faith! Some believe that sex outside of marriage between a man and his wife is sinful and leads to eternal damnation. To expect such sincere believers to fellowship with those who they believe abuse this law of God is not blessing them. Some others believe that God accepts LGBT and heterosexual Christians equally and that to refuse people full and equal membership and participation in the life and ministry of the church is abusive and cannot be tolerated. To expect such sincere believers to fellowship with such is like requiring a woman to stay in a relationship with a man who abuses her and her children. Now, I appreciate that you hold the traditional Anglican viewpoint but that you want each side to accept the other and focus on what they have in common rather than what separates them.
They can’t do that Justin. You will end up pleasing no-one.
The prophet Amos asked the question in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” My answer to that is “No”. But they can separate honourably, respecting one another’s sincerity and hopefully in time accepting one another as brothers who see things differently.
Are you a shepherd of God’s flock or a politician? Why would a Christian minister try to hold in communion two groups of people who hold diametrically opposing and mutually offensive beliefs? It blesses neither. Are buildings, institutions, numbers and money more important than people? The divide is not just between different countries but within congregations and even families as well.
Wouldn’t it be healthier for all concerned if there were separate congregations that people could join that were clearly inclusive or clearly not? Then there would be church families where people were neither respectively abused nor offended? You can’t just do this and pretend you are still one big happy family.
Are you aware of how many of your people in positions of leadership are afraid to speak out what they truly believe? This is a matter of great shame.
How many more youngsters must die because Christian leaders don’t stand up for the truth? Lizzie Lowe was 14 when she hanged herself in a park near her home in Didsbury, Manchester in September 2014. She was afraid to tell her parents that she was gay. They were all members of St James and Emmanuel Church. She clearly didn’t believe she would be accepted for who she was. How tragic! Her parents said afterwards that they would have accepted her. The leaders of her church said, ”We believe that we are an inclusive and welcoming church…had she felt able to talk to us, she would have found love, acceptance and all the tools at her disposal to help her on her journey.”
Was Lizzie solely to blame for her totally unnecessary death then? Did not her church leaders have the responsibility to make abundantly clear to all their people that they were fully “inclusive”, if, indeed, that was the case? Do you not personally have the responsibility to see that churches under your leadership make it very clear that they are a safe, fully accepting haven for these little ones, if, indeed they are?
I am confident that you will ultimately recognise that it is showing love to all concerned to encourage them to speak the truth in love to one another and agree to separate where necessary to avoid abuse or offence.
Why should you put the traditionalists under such duress by expecting them to embrace what they consider sin? They are simply following the historical church teachings in good conscience. Amicable separation is better than acrimonious fellowship for all parties. Proverbs 15:17 says, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Yes, separation will be painful but I believe that as you trust Jesus to build His church you will lead your people into a new era of peace and harmony and relevance in the 21st century.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,
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